Columbia Writers on Buzzfeed's 2020 Summer Reading List

BY Audrey Deng, June 11, 2020

Two books by members of the Columbia community are featured in Buzzfeed’s ”29 Summer Books You Won't Be Able To Put Down”Want by Adjunct Assistant Professor Lynn Steger Strong and Pizza Girl by Alumna Jean Kyoung Frazier ’18. Both books are also featured in LitHub’s “The Best New Books to Read This Summer.”

Want follows a woman’s bankruptcy in New York and her memories of an old friendship, and does so in a way that led LitHub to write, “Want is the kind of book that is so engrossing and hard to put down, it feels less like reading a book and more like inhaling a universe, one that you were waiting for and didn’t know it.”

A positive review from Vulture adds that though the narrator is “white, a creative, Brooklyn-based: the three horsemen of our decade’s literary apocalypse…[the novel’s] characters occupy a hazy gray zone where more successful friends invite them out for $22 gin martinis, but paying for three of their own drinks would deplete their bank account entirely. This is a new middle class, not actually a middle class at all, but a static hell of depleted expectations and small indecencies, as if Anne Helen Petersen’s viral burnout article and John Steinbeck’s oeuvre had a baby.” Want, out in July, is available for pre-order.

 

Frazier’s Pizza Girl was named a most anticipated book of 2020 by VogueHarper's BazaarElleMarie Claire, TimePeopleBustle, and more. The narrator—the pizza girl—is a nameless eighteen-year-old living in suburban Los Angeles with her mother and boyfriend while working as a pizza delivery girl in suburban Los Angeles. She is pregnant and in strong denial about it. Along her pizza route, she meets a woman twenty years her senior and becomes fascinated with her; their relationship emerges as the star of the novel.

An excerpt of Pizza Girls appears in the New York Times, which also reviewed the book favorably in their Group Text series. “Frazier’s debut has the quirky, cool sweetness I loved in Ladybird. (You’ll laugh around the lump in your throat.) The writing feels fresh and uninhibited and the message — that a chance encounter can change your life — leaves you with a sense that anything is possible, even now.”

Buzzfeed describes being charmed immediately by the narrator. “Pizza Girl’s narrator, Jane, won me over immediately, her voice sardonic, unimpressed, and just a bit playful.”

LitHub writes that “Frazier has a particular knack for dialogue, and even better knack for the self-destructive spiraling of her narrator, which turns an enjoyable coming of age novel into a wry ballad for a certain kind of aimless, shiftless youth.”

 

The book has garnered praise from Columbia faculty as well. Professor Richard Ford writes, "To Pizza Girl, Jean Kyoung Frazier brings a flawless ear for language, great inventiveness, unfailing intelligence and empathy, and best of all a rare and shimmering wit. This novel has immense appeal." Associate Professor Sam Lipsyte adds, "Pizza Girl is a funny and moving debut, full of wry observation and deep humanity. Jean Kyoung Frazier's incredibly winning protagonist delivers laughter and grief with all the toppings. A wonderful novel from a new writer with talent and heart." From Adjunct Associate Professor Elissa Schappell, "Frazier's darkly comic, unsentimental, subversive debut novel, Pizza Girl, heralds the debut of a wholly-original new kind of American hero, a pregnant, teetering-on-alcoholic Korean-American teenager, as well as the arrival of a wildly gifted writer."

With this exuberant acclaim for her very first novel, Esquire asked Frazier: “This is just your first novel. What’s next for you?”

Frazier responded that she is currently working on two more projects, one about basketball, the other about stoners. “I'm mostly just excited that I’m still writing,” she said. “Sometimes you worry, ‘Is this all I’ve got in the tank? This was so hard—can I do it again?’”

Pizza Girl is available to order on Bookshop.org.